5 Boondocking Locations and Free Campsites in Ohio



The Buckeye has to be one of the most underrated camping destinations because most people assume that it’s flat, featureless, and mostly farmland. Nothing could be further from the truth, as it has several distinct regions, each with its own qualities that make boondocking in Ohio a fantastic opportunity.

The northwest corner touching Lake Erie has spectacular sand dunes to explore while the Allegheny Plateau in the northeast has some of the state’s best hiking. In the middle, Dayton and Cleveland provide loads of urban fun, and the southern third of the state attracts boaters and anglers with its many lakes and streams. The state’s beauty and recreational opportunities go largely unnoticed though, so you won’t be dealing with crowded campgrounds while boondocking in Ohio

Can I Go Boondocking in Ohio?

Camping for free or almost free, there’s got to catch, right? Not really. Hotels and Airbnbs can get pricey in cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati, but if you’re willing to forgo some basic amenities while boondocking in Ohio, there are a number of spots where camping won’t cost you a dime.

One option is to park your rig at an RV-friendly establishment — Walmart, Cracker Barrel, and Bass Pro Shop are just a few of them. It’s expected that you’ll buy a meal or some supplies while you’re there, benefiting both parties. Some municipalities in Ohio have banned parking lot camping, so you’ll need to check with the business before settling down for the night.

Most of Ohio’s free campsites are located on public land — state parks, state forests, along with a few county and city parks. Ohio’s sole national park, Cuyahoga Valley, does not allow camping within its boundaries, but there are a few state parks and recreation areas with camping facilities just outside it. Typically, these are parks with very few amenities. So, don’t expect water and electrical hookups. Even a bathroom isn’t guaranteed. Come prepared for self-sufficient boondocking and you’ll be well on your way to getting yourself a free campsite.

Top 5 Locations for Boondocking in Ohio

Getting away from the national parks and the more popular state parks allows you to see a wilder side of the Buckeye State. Plus, when you’re not paying hotel and campground fees, you’ll have more money to spend on exploring this vibrant state. These are some of the best places to start your adventure of boondocking in Ohio.

Woodbury Wildlife Area

Located about an hour and a half from both Columbus and Akron, Woodbury Wildlife Area is one of the best spots for boondocking in Ohio's northern half. It’s not open during the summer, and permits campers only from late September until mid-May. This coincides with hunting season, so you’ll need to have a valid hunting, fishing, or trapping license to stay here. The wildlife area is home to an abundance of whitetail deer, turkeys, grouse, ducks, bass, and catfish. 

Amenities: Campsites are primitive, with most of them being little more than an enlarged pull-out that can fit a 34-foot camper or RV. The only bathrooms are at the shooting range off of State Route 60, so come prepared with an empty blackwater tank and plenty of drinking water.

Capacity: 32 RV sites

More Information: Woodbury Wildlife Area 

Adams Lake State Park

This small, but scenic little park in the far southeastern corner of the state is a must-visit when boondocking Ohio. It’s primarily used by anglers, who enjoy abundant stocks of largemouth bass, channel catfish, and bluegill. There’s also about a mile of hiking trails to stroll on.

Amenities: Sites are located near the lake and benefit from a stand of shady trees even though the rest of the park is sparsely forested. Each has a picnic table, a fire ring, and access to a vault toilet. There’s also a playground in the park and a boat ramp for easy access to the lake. The town of West Union is only a few miles down the road should you need any supplies. 

Capacity: 10 RV sites

More Information: Adams Lake State Park 

Wayne National Forest

This forest near the West Virginia border has some of the most extensive boondocking opportunities in the state. There are four campgrounds within the forest: Iron Ridge and Oak Hill at Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area, Burr Oak Cove on Burr Oak Reservoir, and Stone Church Horse Camp. 

Amenities: Iron Ridge and Oak Hill both have drinking water and flush toilets, while the latter even has showers. They also offer electrical hookups and dump stations. Burr Oak Cove is far more primitive with only vault toilets and drinking water with no hookups. The horse camp has no real amenities to speak of, being more of a trailhead than a campground. However, non-horse users can still camp at the sites.

Capacity: 67 RV sites 

More Information: Wayne National Forest 

Zaleski State Forest

There are three campgrounds within Zaleski State Forest. Atkinson’s Hunters Camp is only open to licensed hunters for dispersed camping from the beginning of September until late May. The horse camp is only open to campers using horses. Lake Hope State Park is a year-round campground open to anyone. 

Amenities: The hunters and horse campgrounds offer latrines, picnic tables, and fire rings while the state park campground has heated showers, flush toilets, picnic tables, fire rings, and laundry facilities. Also, 43 of Lake Hope’s sites have electrical hookups.

Capacity: 162 RV sites + dispersed camping at Atkinson’s Hunters Camp

More Information: Zaleski State Forest

Harrison State Forest

About an hour and a half west of Pittsburgh and two hours south of Cleveland, Harrison State Forest is one of the best spots for boondocking in Ohio. The forest has two campgrounds: Ronsheim and Trailriders, both having limited amenities. However, there are over twenty miles of hiking trails to traverse the forest.

Amenities: Sites at both campgrounds have fire rings, picnic tables, and vault toilets. You’ll need to bring your own drinking water. There’s also a small shooting range inside the state forest boundaries. 

Capacity: 27 RV sites

More Information: Harrison State Forest 

Explore the Beauty of Ohio With Cruise America

Ohio may not be a classically beautiful state, lacking the soaring peaks of the Colorado Rockies (or even the rolling hills of nearby Kentucky), but what it lacks in mountains it more than makes up for with beautiful Great Lakes shoreline, fascinating cities, and a lack of crowds during peak tourist season. 

Ohio is also very centrally located, which means you can visit plenty of other interesting areas when you choose an RV rental from Cruise America. We have rental locations across the Buckeye State, so you’ll never need to drive far to start your adventure. If you’re ready to take the plunge and see all it has to offer, contact Cruise America to make your reservation today!